While the Deepwater Horizon oil geyser spill continues to stir political debate and attention, a lesser known problem is also being documented. It turns out that oil is actually leaking into the water. Who knew? This information may hit mainstream media sometime soon because cute little furry and feathery animals are losing their lives (and more importantly their habitats). [imagine a picture of a cute little otter here]
What is far less likely to make the headlines of mainstream media is the possible effects on Cold-Water Reefs in the gulf area. According to a couple of researchers at the Marine Geology and Geophysics division of “The U” the deep sea habitat in nearby waters is at risk for serious contamination. Deep sea systems use heterotrophic animals as their building base. Unlike the shallow reefs which use sunlight/zooxanthellae to provide energy for growth, these systems rely on catching falling food from above. Very little is known about these areas that can be frickin cold (just above freezing temperatures). What is known is that their food particles fall thousands of feet until settling on the substrate. As these particles fall through the water column they are at risk of being contaminated with micro oil droplets that are suspended in the water.
A great explanation of this can be found in the ScienceDaily report here.